Basic web sites dedicated to EAD

Basic web sites dedicated to EAD

Of course there are many of sites dedicated to Encoded Archival Description. How many sites exists you may convince yourself querying web searcher like Google, Yahoo or Altavista. But I’d like to tell about just few of them, which are essential for persons who are occupied in implementing EAD. As a matter of fact it is not a review, but just some examples. I’d like to mansion not about dozens of sites, but just several most imprtant. Quality not quantity.

The first basic web site for EAD surfers is a web site of Library of Congress. First of all you can find there Tag Library. Tags are the basic elements of every EAD document. Every single tag is here exactly explaind. You can learn where every element may occure within and what kind of data, what attributes and which other elements it may contain. Usage of every element is shown by examples. There is also a list of attributes for every element.
Another important thing here is List message archive, where you can find answers for your problems with EAD. So when you don’t know how to do something, you may look here; maybe earlier somebody had similar problem and it was resolved.
And finally interesting is a review of EAD Sites on the World Wide Web. You can find here web addresses with a short description of site.

Second usefull site is this one called EAD Help Pages . First of all you can find here EAD COOKBOOK, a noteworthy humoristic written handbook. It is excellent for the beginning work with EAD. You can download this document on your hard drive.
Then you can find here some basic practical questions about implementing EAD in XML. Everything here is explained simply and clear.
Why is XML so important here? Why do we speak about it? It’s because EAD was grounded on XML. I’ll return to this subject in my summary.

On the web site of the University of Illinois you can find EAD finding aids of papers of some persons. Collections have very detailed description.
You can glance over the XML source of the document – the hand- or machine written code which is translated by internet browser and displayd in human readable format.
There is one important thing. Look attentively at attributes within tags. They are not displayed when you are viewing a proper XML document. One may say "It is trivial. What a difference". But they are important for searching software when you are building a database. Attributes cannot be simply omited. There is a difference. Here are not many of them, but you must remember about them. In brief: attributes preserves informations about elements. They are essential for this kind of retrieval structure, such EAD.
A full set o fattributes you can find on site of LoC.
It looks like very complicated at a glance, but I can assure you that it is not when you get a little practice.

On the web site of the University of Washington you can find some finding aids. Similar to the previous project. It is not in XML, documents were converted into HTML. It’s really interesting job.

Retrospective conversion is a very interesting guidelines to converting existing finding aids from disparate institutions for contribution to a union database. It detailed discuss a structure of EAD document and therefore may be very usefull for everyone.

Access to art collections – this project is prepared rather for museums and large art collections, but it shows how wide can be use of EAD. It is not only for archives.

And last important web site – XML4Lib – is a place in WWW, where you can discuss or ask your question about XML. Similar like List message archive on LoC web site. It was designed for librarians in fact, but I think it can be helpfull for archivists too.

Of course all specifications about coding languages (such SGML, XML) you can find at

In summary: there is one important general conclusion. EAD is a XML-based structure, which is special coding language for creating internet applications, mainly databases. This is no coincidence. EAD has been planned exactly as an internet structure. In fact this is something completely different from all hitherto existing standards of archival description. EAD requires from archivists really hard work. They will have to change they manner of thinking. Rarely and rarely people will look for finding aid on the shelf, in paper inventory, and more often they will reach the internet by means of browser or other searching applications, which can reach remote world-scattered repositories using world wide web.

Piotr Tafiłowski